One of two things is likely to happen shortly after you begin playing Jettomero: Hero of The Universe. You’ll either be completely captivated by the presentation and won’t be able to put it down, or you’ll feel somewhat let down by the actual play experience when you realize there isn’t much to it. This is our Jettomero Hero of the Universe Review.
Jettomero is a gorgeous game. Its lovable, gargantuan robot hero exists in a universe that looks a bit like a finger painting, a bit like a comic book, and a bit like a nineties holographic sticker. Its rainbow of contrasting, oddly muted colors, combined with its uncertain sense of scale, present a setting that feels more representational than literal. Is Jettomero really that big in comparison to the planets he explores? It’s hard to believe, especially since the buildings themselves are so large that it can’t take the humans who occupy them more than a few hours to circle the globes they inhabit on foot. Though I have no idea whether it’s what the creators were going for, I could easily believe that everything we see is supposed to represent Jettomero’s perception of events. How big he felt in comparison to everything, and how small and scant the cities he waded through seemed.
Here’s the deal: You’re an enormous robot. You wake up alone, on an empty planet, and you have no idea who you are. You quickly discover that the planet contains sources of a substance you can use as fuel, which allows you to blast off into space, and you set out in search of answers. Planets you land on will contain more fuel cells to power further exploration, as well as cosmetic parts that you can use to customize your look. It isn’t long before you encounter planets which are inhabited by humans. The humans are, of course, terrified of you, but their hordes of planes, tanks, and missiles are slightly irritating at worst. A few planets, however, also contain other giant robots, and these guys aren’t interested in discussing your origins with you. When you encounter one, you’ll fire eye-beams at each other and play a simple, DDR style “follow the button combo” minigame to win the ensuing tug-of-war. Blow up the opposition, and you’ll be presented with a scrambled bit of data in the form of a word jumble that, once solved, will give an explanation (in comic book form) of a small piece of Jettomero’s history.
All of this works just fine. The controls are fine, the exploration is fine, the robot battles are fine (though sometimes infuriating), and the data scrambles, once you figure out what you’re supposed to do to solve them, are fine. The issue, if there is one, is that it was difficult, based on the game’s trailers and initial presentation, not to expect more. There’s a vaguely Katamari-like sense of wonder evoked by the visuals that gives the impression the player is about to experience something truly magical. That impression lasts for the first few minutes, as you figure out how to walk, collect fuel, navigate space, and confront enemy robots, but after a handful of planets, it’s difficult not to feel as if, beautiful as it is, there isn’t much to the game. You toddle around each planet tiny planet, collecting fuel and the occasional new body part while looking for an enemy robot so that you can blast off and do it again. Since there are no obstacles that can impede you (mountains can be stepped over, buildings crash and burn at the barest nudge of your mighty toes, and oceans are barely knee deep), there’s nothing to exploring a planet besides walking around on all sides of it until you’ve found everything, which takes no more than a minute or two.
This is sometimes made bothersome by the fact that Jettomero himself will begin urging you to move on when it’s obvious there are still fuel cells and parts to collect. Once you do blast off again, the next planet is pretty much guaranteed to look like a color-swapped version of the last one. It might have fewer trees, more oceans, or taller buildings, but for the most part, there isn’t a lot of variation. I can understand why one planet looks pretty much the same as another to a towering robot the size of five skyscrapers, but it does make them less than interesting to the human being told his story. Meanwhile, the DDR-style button-mashing robot fights, while mostly inoffensive, aren’t very interesting, and the ciphers, while perfectly tolerable, aren’t especially fun to solve. None of what’s here is bad, but none of it quite lives up to the promise of the visual and aural presentation.
All of that said, Jettomero isn’t terribly difficult and, if the art style grabs you, the lack of complex game play may be refreshing. The backstory of the protagonist is worth discovering, and the argument could be made that the point here isn’t so much to be challenged as it is to just be Jettomero, and see the world through the eyes of a humongous, well-meaning sentient robot who wants to help but keeps accidentally stepping on things. And, of course, taking pictures with the built-in photo function. Color-swapped planets or not, this game looks great in screenshots. For the price at which it’s being offered, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I just can’t help wishing that something so initially promising offered a bit more.